Environmental Initiatives

International Policy

Whale Shark

In the absence of an overarching international governance system for regulating marine fisheries, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction, there exist a number of treaties, organizations and intergovernmental instruments that serve to manage fisheries. These instruments include the United Nations and its various processes and organizations, and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.


In addition, there are many treaties, multilateral agreements and intergovernmental organizations that contain provisions relevant to the exploitation, use or trade of marine species.


In an effort to achieve stronger conservation measures for marine species and the marine environment, Pew engages with a number of these multilateral instruments. Pew offers its science-based research and policy expertise in order to aid decision makers and relevant stakeholders in designing and adopting appropriate management mechanisms and policy decisions to ensure the conservation and long-term sustainability of marine resources, and the ocean.


Meet Pew's international policy experts.

Learn more about Pew's international marine work. (PDF)


The Latest:

  • 'Fad-Free' Tuna

    Tens of thousands of fish aggregating devices (FADs) are deployed every year by the world’s tuna purse-seine vessels.

  • Recommendations from the 2nd Symposium on Fish Aggregating Devices 2011

    In the open ocean, tuna purse-seine operators profit from large pelagic fishes’ propensity to aggregate around drifting objects.

  • Interest and Influence: A Snapshot of the Western and Central Pacific Tropical Tuna Fisheries

    The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) stretches approximately 6,000 nautical miles, from the archipelagos of Southeast Asia to the remote atolls of Kiribati in the Central Pacific.

  • Ocean Life in the Balance: WIll Science Overcome Politics at Rio+20 Conference

    The United Nations has sought to promote the "peaceful use of the seas and ocean, the equitable utilization of their resources, and the study, protection, and preservation of the marine environment," for decades.

  • Measure Up For Sustainability

    The WCPFC aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), an area covering 20 percent of the Earth’s surface and containing the world’s largest tuna fishery.

  • Pew Encouraged that Ocean Protection is on Rio+20 Agenda

    Rio+20's new draft of the ‘outcome document’ includes a number of positive marine proposals, including a move towards negotiating a new, legally binding agreement under the UN for the conservation of biodiversity on the high seas, where currently few rules exist.

  • Timeline: Putting the Ocean Back Into the Earth Summit

    In June 2012, governments will meet to secure renewed political commitment to better manage the finite supply of natural resources on Earth, at what will be known as the Rio+20 conference in Brazil.

  • Policy Statement: Recommendations to the 22nd Annual Meeting of ICCAT

    In November 2011, the Pew Environment Group will call on members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to take critical actions to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, to end overfishing, to conserve threatened shark species, and to strengthen the Commission.

  • Ocean Earth: How Rio+20 Can and Must Turn the Tide

    Next June global leaders will come together for the Rio+20 conference to discuss the future of sustainable development. November 1st 2011, marks the deadline for States to submit their zero draft submissions to help guide the outcome document of Rio+20. Read Pew’s policy statement with recommendations for these submissions.

  • Policy Statement: Ocean and Law of the Sea Resolution

    This year's annual Oceans and Law of the Sea resolution offers an important and timely opportunity for Member States to take action to reshape the future of oceans governance.

  • Rio+20: Time to Turn Back the Tide

    The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), known as the Earth Summit or Rio+20, will take place in Brazil in 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Read an analysis of the gaps in the implementation of the ocean-related outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development.

  • Policy Statement: Sustainable Fisheries Resolution

    September 13-16, the United Nations General Assembly, represented by 193 Member States will convene for the First Round of the negotiations on the Sustainable Fisheries Resolution. These negotiations offer the international community a critical opportunity to address the future viability of fisheries in international waters.

    Negotiations will reconvene on November 8th.

  • Kobe III Meeting

    From July 12-14 in La Jolla, California, all five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) will gather to discuss coordinated management efforts for fishing of tuna, tuna-like species and other species affected by tuna fishing.

  • Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

    The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) will host its 82nd annual meeting from July 4 – 8. The IATTC is one of five regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) responsible for the fishing of tuna and tuna-like species. At this meeting, the IATTC member governments will consider concrete action for tuna and shark conservation and management, action that will hopefully reverse critical species declines with both commercial and ecological consequences.

United Nations


UN General Assembly (UNGA)

Comprised of all 193 Members, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is the main representative and policymaking organ of the United Nations. The Assembly considers through its Plenary and Committee work a number of resolutions relating to Oceans and the Law of the Sea, Sustainable Fisheries and other issues concerning the conservation of marine biodiversity and marine ecosystems. Additionally, the General Assembly oversees the work of a number of processes designed to facilitate multilateral discussions on ocean issues. 

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UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is recognized as the primary international agreement defining sovereignty rights and jurisdiction at sea. It possesses guidelines for the equitable use of marine resources and contains key conservation measures for the protection and preservation of marine biodiversity and the marine environment. 

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UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Committee on Fisheries (FAO)

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a subsidiary body of the United Nations which seeks to lead international efforts to combat world hunger. FAO has numerous programmes of work focused on securing the long-term sustainable development and utilization of the world’s fisheries including the Committee on Fisheries (COFI). 

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Earth Summit 2012 (UNCSD)

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), known as the Earth Summit 2012, is a follow-up conference to the first and second Earth Summits, which took place in 1992 and 2002 respectively. The process leading up to the 2012 Summit will look to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, address new challenges and assess progress made in achieving the goals of the previous summits.

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Regional Fishery Management
Organizations (RFMOs)


Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is responsible for the conservation and management of marine biodiversity in the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR’s mandate emphasizes ecosystem-based management and a precautionary approach. However, increased commercial fisheries targeting species such as krill threaten the stability of Southern Ocean ecosystems.



Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) was established to manage tuna and tuna-like species in the eastern Pacific Ocean. IATTC has a mandate that is more modern than other tuna RFMOs, and includes a precautionary and ecosystem-based approach to management. This mandate enables IATTC to address the impacts of tuna fishing on the ecosystem and on non-tuna species, such as sharks, in its convention area. 

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International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, ICCAT countries stood by as populations of bluefin tuna, sharks and other species declined precipitously. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to undermine conservation and management efforts in much of the ICCAT convention area, and must be addressed.

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Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)

The Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is a regional fisheries management organization which manages fish, mollusks and crustaceans within its area of competence. NEAFC’s mandate was designed to promote the long-term conservation and optimum utilization of fishery resources in the Northeast Atlantic Convention Area.

 Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is a regional fisheries management organization which provides scientific advice and manages fisheries resources in the Northwest Atlantic. NAFO’s mandate has important conservation and management measures for species in the convention area, but excludes salmon, whales, sedentary species as well as tuna and tuna-like species.

 Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is one of the more recent RFMOs established in 1994. It adopted a more modern and comprehensive mandate, providing an opportunity to apply best practices for fisheries management and improve upon the trends of other RFMOs.  The WCPFC area covers nearly 20% of the Earth’s surface and yields approximately half of the world's tuna catch (more than any other single RFMO). In addition, WCPFC is one of the only RFMOs with a clear mandate to manage sharks and other species fished in its convention area, providing critical opportunities to make progress on a wide range of conservation measures for marine species.

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Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was established to promote the conservation of biological diversity and to ensure the sustainable use of biological components of ecosystems and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from genetic resources. Important conservation measures for marine species and marine ecosystems are negotiated under CBD’s “Programme of Work on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity.”

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Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates or prohibits international trade in endangered and threatened plants and animals. CITES is widely recognized as one of the best-enforced international conservation agreements, offering protection to more than 30,000 species around the globe.

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